Billed as the next chapter of Windows, today Microsoft will unveil new consumer features and a more complete description of Windows 10 – an operating system that promises to bring one common platform running across all computing devices. You can stream Microsoft’s briefing live at 9am PST (12pm EST), or you can view it on-demand after.
Without a doubt, given how much the computing landscape has shifted for the past 3 years, this is the most important Windows release ever. As Microsoft’s COO Kevin Turner recently admitted, the software giant’s OS held just 14% share of computing devices. The company’s last Windows release, Windows 8, was a total disaster that likely caused, Steven Sinofsky, the former President of Windows Division, his job. If this were an NFL game, Windows 10 can probably be seen as Satya Nadella’s (or Terry Myerson if you’re a serious Microsoft insider) “Hail Mary” pass. If Windows 10 were to fail, there would be no playoffs, no Super Bowl, and sadly, more uncomfortable restructuring.
Will the “football” be caught or dropped? Here are 10 things that you might want to pay attention to if you are planning to grab a front-row seat for the upcoming Windows 10 event.
1) New browser codenamed Spartan
Leaks and discussions of a new browser being shipped along with Windows 10 and an updated version of Internet Explorer (likely named IE12) began in earnest earlier this month. It is supposed to be more Chrome-like and could include some very advanced features. If Spartan could truly leapfrog competing browsers such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome technologically, it might make the lack of WebKit compatibility slightly less painful or even convince a few people to switch.
2) Cortana – Digital Personal Assistant
Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri and Google’s Google Now debuted in the US last year when the company released Windows Phone 8.1 and it is slowly being rolled out globally. All signs point to Cortana being deeply integrated into Windows 10, and it could potentially make so easy to use Windows that your grandparents could finally learn it. (In Canada, an alpha version of the digital assistant is now available on the latest Lumia headsets such as the Lumia 830.)
3) Windows 10 “Continuum”
Shoehorning 2 operating systems into 1 was never a very good idea according to many Windows 8 critics, but Microsoft may actually have figured out make 1 operating system work well in different form factors with features such as mini Start Screen (aka Start Menu) and “Continuum”. Will it work even better than what Microsoft demoed? We may see exactly how well it works on Wednesday.
4) Microsoft Office for Windows 10
Microsoft has been busy releasing and updating Office for iOS and Android for the past few months, which predictably hurt loyal Windows and Windows Phone users. Indeed, if blogosphere sentiment is anything to go by, a full-scale revolt is coming from these users. Showcasing a touch-friendly, better version of Microsoft Office for Windows 10 could be one way to calm them.
5) Insiders’ reactions
One of Windows 8’s biggest failures was the unwillingness to incorporate feedback from its biggest supporters. (That is why having the Windows Insider program made good sense.) Track the thoughts of current and former insiders such as Paul Thurrott, Mary Jo Foley, Hal Berenson, Ed Bott, Tom Warren, Brad Sams, and Peter Bright if you want to an early prognosis of Windows 10’s ability to compete effectively in the market.
6) Windows 10 Pricing
Due to its monopoly position in the market, Microsoft has always been able to price discriminate and charge everyone something for a Windows upgrade. Kevin Turner suggested that Microsoft is looking at new business models in 2015 and there are persistent rumours that Windows 10 will at least be free for some users. Some free upgrades seem to be the most likely scenario, but the company needs a very aggressive pricing strategy when virtually all other major computing OS upgrades such as Android, iOS, and Mac OS are available for free these days.
As a software company, Microsoft has always been a reluctant player when it comes to hardware. Ironically, with the controversial purchase of Nokia’s smartphone division and the improbable success of Surface Pro 3, the company is better positioned than ever to produce hardware that could both intrigue consumers and make a market. Will Microsoft showcase or hint at innovative hardware products that could outshine what their OEMs delivered at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES)?
8) Internet of Things
Upon retiring from Microsoft, Steve Ballmer optimistically stated that Microsoft was working hard to make sure that the company will catch the next wave of innovations. The next wave is the Internet of Things and connected devices were everywhere at this year’s CES. Does Microsoft have a credible Windows 10 Internet of Things story? Satya Nadella promised that much. Let’s see if he will deliver. If not, I hear that there is a company based in Waterloo, Ontario with an operating system called QNX and a CEO named John Chen who may or may not be interested in a sale. And Samsung may have reasons to buy it.
9) Windows Mobile 10
Since 6 months ago, Microsoft is rumoured to combine its Windows Phone 8.x operating system and Windows 8.x RT operating system into a single mobile OS. Along with various feature addition and deletion, the version that finally emerges may be something called Windows Mobile 10. Will it finally achieve parity with Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android? What will happen to ARM-based tablets like the original Surface.
10) Innovative new technologies (e.g., Skype Translator)
In Satya Nadella’s debut memo as Microsoft’s CEO, he said that his industry is one that “does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation.” Truth to be told, with the rise of smartphones and tablets, the unique value proposition of Windows is becoming increasingly questionable, and Microsoft must innovate to survive – something that the company can do well but not consistently. Need proof? Watch the Skype Translator introduction video below and be amazed.
How many real innovations can Windows 10 bring to the table? Will the innovations and changes overwhelm and alienate users once again or convince them to upgrade? Is PC gaming the shot in the arm that Windows 10 needed? According to Renee James, there are about 600 million PCs that are ripe for upgrades. As Business Insider’s Matt Rosoff states, this is likely Microsoft’s last chance to make Windows relevant again. So ladies and gentlemen, grab your popcorn, pizza, and wings, it is time to play the Windows 10 game!